The first half of 2017 has been a bleak one for cinema. There are select exceptions to this, of course, such as “The Lego Batman Movie,” James Mangold’s “Logan,” and “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2,” but the vast majority of films released in the past six months have been, in a word, unsatisfying. So, with the upcoming DVD/Blu-Ray, Digital and Video On-Demand (VOD) releases of some of this year’s earlier standouts just around the corner, I thought I would take some time to call attention to a movie that’s destined to be enshrined among 2017’s best — a February release that went largely unnoticed except by those paying careful attention to Rotten Tomatoes, or who were fortunate enough to experience the original during its theatrical run in 2014.
“John Wick” and “John Wick: Chapter 2” have developed a quiet yet sizable cult following among cinephiles and action movie enthusiasts alike. The former was hailed as a near masterpiece from longtime stuntman team turned first-time directing duo Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, boasting an outstanding 85% critics score on the Tomatometer, and managed to recoup more than four times its production budget from its total worldwide box office haul. So when Lionsgate officially announced that Stahelski and Leitch would return to helm the sequel, “John Wick: Chapter 2,” fans waited with baited breath in hopes that the successor to one of the most beautifully choreographed action movies ever created would live up to the hype. On February 10, 2017, audiences all over the world finally got their answer. Check out my brief summaries of the two films below:
Review - “John Wick”: “John Wick” is a thoroughly refreshing and surprisingly well-rounded reimagining of the assassin/thriller genre. Every single frame of the action feels meticulously choreographed, which yields some of the most beautiful and engaging action sequences of any motion picture in recent memory. While Stahelski and Leitch’s execution on some aspects such as writing is often sub-par, it's ultimately a fantastic picture that's absolutely worth a watch. At a runtime of just over an hour-and-a-half, it’s hard to believe that these two ex-stuntmen (and first-time directors) managed to pack so much unbelievably spectacular imagery and emotional sentiment into a film which patented an entirely new style of cinematic combat now affectionately referred to as “gun-fu.”
The Verdict: 8.5/10
Review - “John Wick: Chapter 2”: Unprecedented. “John Wick: Chapter 2” upcycles every piece of the first film, then doubles down on them all to furnish the most mind-blowing exhibition of interminable action in twenty years. The trademark gun fights are bigger, better, and badder, growing increasingly more impressive as the narrative plunges the audience deeper and deeper into the extensive underground network of elite hitmen from which John Wick has attempted to retire. The cinematography, writing, and choreography are also exponentially more polished this time around, and Keanu Reeves's performance as the formidable "Baba Yaga" is sure to be immortalized as the acme of his career. “John Wick: Chapter 2” is unequivocally phenomenal.
The Verdict: 9/10
Final Take: Both films in what is quickly becoming the John Wick trilogy/saga/universe are absolutely spectacular. Finally, Hollywood delivers a movie with an insane, but welcome, degree of firearms-based conflict where ammo counts and magazine changes actually matter and technique is paramount. Don’t believe me? Check out this video of Keanu Reeves training with Taran Tactical ahead of production on “John Wick: Chapter 2.” It’s refreshing to see directors exercising so much care in producing a one-of-a-kind action movie with an equally interesting story at its core. It’s not out to send a political message or push any “Hollywood agenda.” It’s just a fantastic motion picture, plain and simple.
Parental Guide: Both films boast a visceral amount of violence (I believe one YouTube user has uploaded separate headshot counter videos for both films) and a fair amount of language. That being said, I would never recommend not seeing either of these movies on that basis. It’s appropriate for the subject matter and isn’t excessive, but I would definitely restrict viewing to older teens and adults — or anyone that's ever played his/her fair share of Call of Duty. Be sure to watch the trailers (John Wick Official Trailer | John Wick: Chapter Two Official Trailer) to get a sense of what to expect and who you can comfortably watch this movie with.
Where to Watch: "John Wick" is available on DVD/Blu-Ray disc, Digital HD (iTunes, FandangoNow, Vudu, etc.), and VOD. "John Wick: Chapter 2" is available now on Digital HD and will be released on DVD, Blu-Ray and 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray disc on June 13, 2017.